I was driving home from Galashiels one afternoon, when I thought of visiting the wooden monument to Muckle-moo’d Meg and Willie Scott, at Thornilee, looking down from high on one side of the valley, and across to the ruined keep of Elibank where Meg was brought up. I’ve mentioned her story before in my blog, a few years ago now, and shown you pictures, but I hadn’t been up on the hillside for a while. The statue carved from a single tree trunk, incorporated the burr into frills on Meg’s skirt and Will’s shirt, but time has been taking its toll and the statue is showing signs of wear and tear these days.
In the early years of the 17th century Sir Gideon Murray, a King’s Privy Councillor, and his family, lived at Elibank in the tower house high above the valley. This tower style of house was common in Scotland in those days among the well-off families, built for protection from neighbouring marauders, and of those there were plenty. Our story concerns a young man from further down the valley, Willie Scott of Harden, who decided to make a raid on Sir Gideon’s cattle. Border raids were common enough then. Somehow Sir Gideon discovered the plot and was ready and waiting for young Scott to appear. He made his move when Scott had rounded up and was driving away some of the Murray stock, captured him and brought him to Elibank, throwing him into the dungeon. His intent was to hang the young fellow, until Lady Murray pointed out that they had a daughter who would be hard to marry off due to her ill looks.
A poem about her story describes her -
“Now Meg was but thin, and her nose it were lang, An’ her mou’ it was muckle, as muckle could be. Her een they war grey and her colour was wan, But her nature was generous, gentle and free.” (long, mouth, big, eyes, pale)
She suggested that Scott be given the chance to marry their daughter instead of being hanged. It would be a good marriage for both families. They brought young Scott out of the dungeon and gave him their offer, which he obviously accepted, though it was said he took his time in agreeing to the marriage. He was presumably won over by Meg’s gentle character, as much as by wanting to live.
And like all good stories it had a happy ending because Will and Meg had a long and happy life together, raising a large family – one of whom was the ancestor of the author Sir Walter Scott, whose monument stands in Edinburgh.
After taking pictures of Will and Meg dancing endlessly, I walked on along one of the marked trails – just a short easy one – where the gorse was well in bloom. We call it whins in Scots. The hillside was covered in it.
So pretty to look at and on a warm day the air is scented with a coconutty perfume – but take a look at the lethal spikes in the next photo!
Having spent some time here I wasn’t really ready to go home yet so I took another detour to Glentress forest, a bit nearer Peebles. Recently there has been a new visitor centre built there and I was keen to see it. For a while, driving along the road from Gala(shiels) I had noticed a box-like construction going up on the hillside, and presumed that it must be the new centre. It looked very ugly and out of place, and I wished that they would plant new trees to hide the monstrosity from view. However, as I drove up to the carpark I was even more dismayed. The new visitor centre has been built echoing the slope of the hill, but what you see from the road is the Forestry Offices!
I headed up into the forest for some views – across Tweeddale to the south,
and west-ish towards Peebles. The main part of the town is on the right of the photo, and the buildings you can see in the centre are a new suburb. Peebles is growing!
By the time I left the forest the afternoon was all but over. I must come back to Glentress more often. It is such a beautiful place to spend an afternoon.
Talk again soon.